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Keys to a Peaceful Home: House Rules for Adult Children Living at Home

A high percentage of adult children are living with their parents—a trend not seen since the Great Depression! Multi-generational living is on the upswing, and this dynamic is causing a stir. The reasons for co-habitation are numerous: convenience, saving money, kids who are emotionally ill-equipped, young adults unable to pay rising rent and housing costs, etc. This parent-child arrangement can tremendously help adult children who get a cheaper place to live, and parents can relish extra time with their children (and grandchildren) while enjoying the satisfaction of supporting their kids for a little longer. Or it can handicap these young adults.

One thing is clear: the typical parent-child toolbox that you've used won’t work since the kids are now full-grown. You can’t send them to their room, ground them, or withhold their allowance anymore.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Adult child with her mother reading an iPad.
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Table of Contents
Why House Rules Are Necessary, Even Critical!
Practical House Rules for Adult Children Living at Home
Resolving Conflicts through Communication
Implementing House Rules with Emotional Intelligence and Balance
Creating an Environment of Mutual Respect
Final Thoughts

Many parents have contacted me for counsel confused, hurt, and angry when confronted with disrespect from their grown children. In many situations, there were no prior conversations, agreements, or needed boundaries before their adult child moved in.  

So, how do you achieve peace of mind and maintain harmony in your household? And is the decision a hindrance or help to your adult child?

Agreeing to and establishing clear and effective house rules are essential.

These guidelines are not just about maintaining order; they're about fostering mutual respect and understanding.


Let’s explore why you need household rules, the benefits of clear guidelines, and why you need emotional intelligence to make this arrangement work for everyone.

Why House Rules Are Necessary—Even Critical!

House rules hold significant importance, particularly when adult children live at home. The framework they provide fosters respect, independence, and mutual understanding, clarifying that while the home is a shared space, it is not a place for complacency or lack of contribution.

In my work with families, one of the first things I recommend to parents is to set clear boundaries—they enhance relationships between parents and their adult children and eliminate parental resentment and stress.

Why?

When parents set healthy guidelines for their adult children to contribute positively to the household and respect shared spaces, it encourages the development of effective family dynamics and assists their child to mature emotionally and build better team skills. The family of origin is their first team—a vital one! How your adult child interacts and contributes in your family unit will most likely transfer to other teams, such as in the workplace or with their future families.

It also makes grown children feel good when they contribute, and we treat them like adults. With no game plan, it is less likely for everyone to be successful and happy.

Creating and enforcing house rules isn't just about maintaining order; it's about nurturing a family environment and holding your grown child accountable where everyone's responsibilities and contributions are acknowledged and valued.


Practical House Rules for Adult Children Living at Home

Living with adult children at home requires navigating the challenges with respect, responsibility, and cooperation.

Establishing clear house rules is one of the most effective ways to achieve this balance. These rules are not just directives but mutual agreements that respect you as parents and your children's adulthood while maintaining harmony in the home. 

So, what are essential house rules? In my experience with numerous families, the ideas below serve as a roadmap for the new territory.

Contribution

Adult children should have clear expectations of their financial responsibilities. Whether paying rent, contributing to groceries, or sharing utility bills, this not only eases the economic burden of parents but also instills financial accountability in adult children.

Some parents have said to me, "But what if we are financially set and I don't need them to contribute?"

Just because you CAN doesn't mean it's the right decision to give your kid a free ride. It depends on many factors but in many parents unknowingly encourage passivity and inhibit self-reliance.

Possible guidelines for adult children regarding contribution:

  1. Contribute a monthly fixed amount for household expenses.
  2. Pay a fair portion of the rent or mortgage.
  3. Split grocery bills proportionally to their income. (This split may not fit your situation if your child rarely eats at home. And if your adult child likes to cook, meal preparation can be their contribution instead of a financial split.)
  4. Take turns paying for shared restaurant meals or outings.

Household Responsibilities and Chores

Sharing household duties prevents resentment and ensures no one feels overburdened. This particular area is a common challenge for parents and causes a lot of friction. Some parents don’t ask their kids to help but then resent it later.

Remember, it’s your home, and you are the parent, so it’s your responsibility to define what is okay with you or not. Get adult children involved, be curious about how they feel and the living arrangements that would work for them, too.

Remember, the goal is to co-create a living space that honors everyone's needs and contributions, not to impose control.

Possible guidelines:

  1. Rotate the weekly chores of family members.
  2. Schedule specific laundry days to avoid conflicts.
  3. Assign responsibility for regular maintenance tasks, such as lawn mowing or garbage disposal.

Respect Personal Space

Respecting each other’s personal space and privacy reinforces the understanding that, although living under the same roof, each family member has their own life and privacy needs.

Possible guidelines:

  1. Knock and wait for permission before entering private spaces.
  2. Determine and respect 'quiet hours' in shared living areas, especially late at night.
  3. Designate areas for personal items in shared spaces to avoid clutter.

Lifestyle and Social Rules

Set healthy boundaries around social activities and lifestyle choices, such as guest guidelines, noise levels, and common area use.

Possible guidelines:

  1. Agree on guidelines for when guests come over, including advance notice and frequency.
  2. Set clear expectations about alcohol consumption and other lifestyle choices. (Remember, it is your home, so you get a say in what you’re comfortable with. Work out win-win solutions, especially when there are disagreements.)
  3. Establish rules for shared resources, such as TV or computer usage times.

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Adult daughter and mother resolving conflict through understanding.

 Resolving Conflicts through Communication

Open communication and healthy conflict resolution are critical. Encouraging open, honest, and respectful discussions about issues as they arise often prevents misunderstandings, increases emotional intelligence, and builds stronger relationships. Ongoing communication is imperative!

Possible guidelines:

  1. Hold a monthly family meeting to discuss issues and adjust rules as needed.
  2. Agree to take a 'cooling-off’ period before discussing heated topics or major differences.
  3. Use "I feel" statements to express concerns without blaming or shaming.

Implementing these house rules can significantly enhance the living experience for you and your adult children.

Remember, these rules should evolve with your family's needs; they are not set in stone.

One of the more crucial aspects of this process that I've noticed in my coaching is the importance of the adaptability of the family rules. Successful families maintain harmony by revisiting and adjusting their rules as circumstances change.

For instance, your adult child didn’t have a job when they first moved in, so you decided that no rent was necessary during their job hunt. However, fast forward five months later, they land a fabulous, high-paying job. Not only are they earning now, but the job is entirely remote, so they’ll be working from home. It’s time to reassess what’s equitable.

Regular family meetings provide the framework for communication that may otherwise not happen in our busy lives. Feel free to make them a part of game night and keep it light and fun. Open and regular dialogue facilitates flexibility and attentive caring while fostering an environment of open communication.


Implementing House Rules with Emotional Intelligence and Balance

Implementing the “rules of engagement” using emotional intelligence is key to having a functional parent/adult-child household dynamic. The situation will involve understanding and empathizing with each other’s perspectives.

Set rules with firmness and compassion, acknowledging your children's adult status. Here’s another blog that provides insights on effective communication when addressing disrespect to preserve respect and understanding.

Balancing Love and Tough Love

Balancing support and empowering your grown children to be self-reliant is tricky. You need to set healthy boundaries but also want to preserve and nurture your relationship with them. Getting to know them as adults is a fun and rewarding experience.

I often recommend to my clients to use tough love judiciously. It's about teaching responsibility while providing emotional support. Frustrated with Dependent Adult Children? 5 Ways to Ignite Resilience and Financial Stability will give you valuable insights on igniting resilience and financial stability in dependent adult children and how to manage this delicate balance.


Creating an Environment of Mutual Respect

When adult children live at home, fostering mutual respect is pivotal. But how can families achieve this balance? A key element is to develop your emotional intelligence. Here are some effective strategies from my work with families:

Practice active listening.Practice active listening and empathy.

Encourage every family member to practice active listening, truly hearing what the other person says without reacting or planning your response. Empathy is vital—it's about understanding the other person's perspective, even if you disagree.

Conduct regular family meetings.Conduct regular family meetings.

Hold regular family meetings where every member, including adult children, can voice opinions and concerns. This practice helps air out issues and make collective decisions that respect everyone's input.

Model respectful behavior.Model respectful behavior.

As parents, exemplify the behavior you desire by demonstrating respect in your interactions with each other and your children, regardless of age. Adult children often reflect the respect they observe in their parents.

Cultivate open and respectful communication.Cultivate loving and open communication, specifically about expectations.

Expectations are often invisible and unspoken. Therefore, it’s vital to discuss expectations openly, decide what’s reasonable, and get everyone’s agreement. This practice isn't just about rule setting but also supporting each other to achieve aspirations and goals.

Resolve conflicts quickly.Resolve conflict effectively and quickly.

Address disagreements calmly and constructively, focusing on solutions rather than blame. The longer we allow a hurt or unresolved disagreement to fester, the less peace there will be. Develop and practice healthy conflict resolution skills (see below).

Added Bonus: How to deal with conflict productively.
How to Deal with Challenges and Conflicts

Conflict is inevitable, but how we handle it makes all the difference. It’s essential to approach family conflicts with calmness and clarity.

When I coach clients, I emphasize the principles for healthy family dynamics, as discussed in my blog on winning back respect from grown children. It involves increasing your emotional intelligence by truly listening and seeking to understand before being understood.

Here are a few helpful strategies:

  • Speak without interruptions, taking turns.
  • Focus on the issue at hand, not past grievances.
  • Seek solutions that all parties find acceptable.
  • Ask questions to gain a greater understanding of each other's point of view.
  • When emotions are tense, take cooling-off periods.

All family members need to do their part to create a mutually respectful environment. Implementing these strategies can build a home where respect is reciprocal, enriching the relationship between parents and grown children.

Seek professional support.Seek professional support when needed.

An external perspective can help. Don't hesitate to seek family counseling or coaching for unbiased guidance in creating a mutually respectful environment. Too often, families wait until disagreements fracture the family and adult children leave in a huff and regretfully cut their parents off. I’ve met with many a grieving parent who is in this situation.


Final Thoughts

Establishing house rules for adult children living at home lays the foundation for a harmonious, respectful living environment. When parents and adult children implement these rules with emotional intelligence and flexibility, they foster mutual growth and respect.

Navigating the complexities of parenting adult children and setting healthy boundaries can be challenging, but you're not alone. Heartmanity’s coaching services offer personalized guidance and support. We can help you foster a harmonious and respectful household with your adult children.

Check out Jennifer's podcast featured on Bite Your Tongue with a lively discussion on the challenges parents are facing with today's young adults.

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Jennifer A. Williams / Parent CoachJennifer A. Williams / Parent Coach
Jennifer is the Heartmanity Founder and a parent coach and behavioral consultant with two decades of experience. She is a Parent Instructor and Instructor Trainer for the International Network of Children and Families and author of several parenting courses, including How to Bully-Proof Your Child and Hacking the Teen Brain. Jennifer is happily married and a mother to 3 fantastic grown children.

Posted in Perfectly Imperfect Parenting

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